I met with five of my former coworkers after work a few weeks ago, all refugees from the Fortune 500 where we worked together. It’s now been more than two years since the sale of that company to the east coast giant, since we were each handed our severance papers, packed our cardboard boxes and departed.
We met at a downtown bar. When I learned of this impromptu reunion, I was surprised by the location, since most of them live outside the city. The reason, so I learned, was that almost all of them are now working again, in the city.
The most recently employed of the group just started his new job, within a few city blocks of two others. My temp job is 20 blocks or so north of the city center, close enough to easily join my old friends.
More to the point, every one at the table that early evening is now employed, which they were not the last time I saw them. It’s always nice to get together again, but the watershed moment was the full employment represented by our little group. We won’t be reported as a positive statistic in the financial pages, but it was encouraging.
Of the six of us that evening, my situation was the only one still in question. The clock was ticking down to the end of this one-year temp job.
There had been a few discussions of this coming reality. I put a few options before my young boss. At the same time, the exercises in expense reduction picked up with intensity, as the company continues to set it finances straight, awaiting anything that looked like a quarterly profit, from any of the several lines of business. One of the most noticeable was another round of job eliminations, over 100 this time. I read the press release, watched the notices roll though, read the departure emails from those on their way out.
There was no way, I thought to myself, that I should expect any other outcome than to finish the one-year term, turn in my temporary badge and go home. In this climate, an extension or, even more remote, a conversion to a direct employee seemed all but impossible.
My boss thought otherwise.
She and her boss sent off an HR requisition and position description straight to their VP. For a couple weeks, nothing. Then she began delivering status reports. It was moving forward.
With three days remaining until the end of my term, I was summoned. An offer was made. They wanted to hire me.
I fell on it like a load of bricks.
And so, this week, after a year in this the most unusual circumstance of my working life, watching the decline of this businesses and, at the same time, working with the terrific people who I have come to enjoy being with every day, I have been hired. I didn’t think she could pull it off, but she did it. Friday was my last day as a temp.
Just when I thought this strange journey could not get any stranger.
As I’ve said before, in return for this acceptance, I’ll do whatever they need me to do. Probably more. After I sign employment documents Monday morning, I need to return to the contract and statement of work I’m putting together for a consulting technical services engagement. I also need to get a conked-out vacuum cleaner to the repair shop. It’s like that, all the time. Important work, as well as the most basic, the sort of tasks I was given in my very first job thirty-seven years ago.
It’s been hard to sift through my thoughts since last week. This isn’t my dream job. This isn’t a company which, three years ago, I would even have considered. I have been, in fact, somewhat vocal in years past about several companies in this town I that were on my not-ever list; this was one.
Where I have found myself, and the work I have found myself doing, still seems far from where I thought I should be, after ten years at the Fortune 500. In more cynical moments, this has seemed distant from the encore I imagined for myself.
And yet, there was no hesitation. I seized it without second thought. And, in the wake of this most unlikely circumstance, the chance to continue to come here every workday, to continue my association with these truly wonderful people, I have a sense of resolution, an appreciation for what has just happened. It’s more than opportunism, more than settling for the closest, easiest target.
Last week, I started clearing out the stuff in the cubicle left by the previous occupant, stuff still where she left it. It wasn’t mine to deal with, since I was just a pair of rented hands. This weekend, I’m taking a few things out of the boxes I packed when I left the Fortune 500, things which have had no place since my last real job. I’m looking forward to making the little cubicle with the large view into my own. I feel a new sense of ownership of my desk and my tasks, a sense that was always a bit at bay because of my status.
But, best of all, I will continue with these terrific people, people I look forward to seeing each day, people who now come to me with questions, with their business problems to solve. They come to me because they see me as an ally, a resource, someone who can be counted on to point them in the right direction, someone upon who they know they can rely.
And that’s everything.
This isn’t a decision of mind. This is a following of heart. There was no reason for them to, but they have accepted me, they have long since made me feel like one of them. I never expected that. During this season of uncertainty, with the succession of uncertainties cascading one after another, coming as it has at a most inopportune time of life, I couldn’t ask for more.